JERUSALEM (Sep. 23)
Top leaders of the United Jewish Appeal told Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a meeting this week that the American Jewish community stands behind him in the dramatic developments in the peace process.
Rabin, in turn, gave them a message to take back to American Jews. He said Israel remains in need of them, despite a strong economy and bright prospects for peace.
Indeed, he said that Israel’s improved economy and security will create a climate that will accelerate the expected aliyah from the former Soviet Union, making the UJA campaign vital.
At a news conference Thursday, the delega- tion members made clear they were pleased to receive this message from Rabin.
Rabin’s mandate enhances the legitimacy and urgency of a campaign now engaged in the difficult task of raising funds for an Israel no longer perceived as besieged, vulnerable or in crisis.
The UJA delegation requested the meeting with Rabin on Wednesday, and arrived the following day for an 18-hour visit.
The catalyst for the request, the delegation said, was the ceremony at the White House on Sept. 13 during which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed an accord on self-rule in the territories.
“We were very touched and moved by what we saw,” said Marvin Lender, UJA national president, who was on the White House lawn for the ceremony.
Also at the Washington ceremony were Joel Tauber, UJA national chairman, and Brian Lurie, executive vice president, who joined Lender at the news conference here.
After the ceremony, said Lender, the UJA leadership met and established a consensus that “we of UJA had to be a part of what was going on in Israel vis-a-vis the peace process.”
Lurie told the Israeli press that at the signing ceremony the notion that the Israeli prime minister was “prime minister of all the Jewish people was more keenly felt” than “at any other time that I remember.”
JEWISH DOLLARS ‘NEEDED NOW’
Lender said the two items on the agenda at the meeting with Rabin were how Diaspora Jews could participate “on this momentous occasion” and “what UJA could do.”
The prime minister echoed the feelings of the delegation, said Tauber, that the economic and security benefits of prospective peace would accelerate the expected aliyah of 500,000 more Jews from the former Soviet Union.
Because of that, said Tauber, Rabin urged UJA to complete by June the $1.2 billion Operation Exodus campaign designed to underwrite the resettlement of immigrants. The campaign has so far raised more than of $800 million.
It is an important message for Jews to hear, he said, so they know “their dollars are needed now,” that “what’s happening here requires the support of the world Jewish community.”
Indeed, that is one of the reasons Israel has taken the “risk for peace,” he said. “They know they have the support” of that community.
The prime minister reinforced the message displayed in a full-page UJA advertisement in The New York Times this week, said Lurie, which connected the breakthrough in the peace process to the opportunity to help Israel.
The theme is new for UJA, Tauber said. “It’s campaigning on positives, rather than fears.”
“It’s not tzedakah,” or charity, anymore, said Lurie. Rather, the issue “is Jewish people hood,” a “dynamic connection” between the Diaspora and Israel.
In response to questions by the Israeli press, the leaders took pains to explain that they hesitate to express opinions on Israeli political affairs because they do not live in Israel and do not face the immediate consequences of difficult political decisions. Their visit, they stressed, was therefore not political but one of solidarity.
“We are struggling to find a way,” said Lender, to be closer to Israelis. “This is an opportunity” to demonstrate that effort, he said.